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Hemodialysis for Acute Renal Failure


Hemodialysis is a procedure to remove chemicals, wastes, and extra fluid from your blood. Hemodialysis does the work of your kidneys when they are not working, such as with acute renal (kidney) failure. Acute renal failure develops when your kidneys suddenly stop working. Failure happens quickly, within hours or days. The hemodialysis machine takes blood from your artery and pumps it through a dialyzer. The dialyzer removes chemicals, waste, and extra fluid from your blood. Clean blood from the dialyzer returns to your body through a vein.


Before your hemodialysis:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • Blood thinners keep clots from forming in your blood. Blood thinners may be given before, during, and after your procedure. These medicines may first be given in your IV. Later the medicines may be taken by mouth. Blood thinners make it easier to bleed or bruise. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Use a soft toothbrush to keep your gums from bleeding.

During your hemodialysis:

  • Your caregiver will check that you are ready. You will be asked to sit back on a comfortable reclining chair. Your caregiver will check your catheter for any leaks and remove any blood clots. When everything is ready, he will connect tubes from the hemodialysis machine to your catheter and start the hemodialysis.
  • During hemodialysis you may read, watch TV, or take a nap. Your caregiver will check on you several times during the hemodialysis to make sure you are okay. He will also check on the machine several times to make sure it is working. Alarms may sound if your blood pressure or pulse change too much, or if the machine's tubing gets loose or kinked. Do not be afraid when the alarms go off. Your caregivers will find the problem, turn off the alarm, and continue your hemodialysis.

After your hemodialysis:

When your hemodialysis is finished, the tubes from the hemodialysis machine will be removed from your catheter. The catheter will be cleaned, closed, and taped securely to avoid being pulled out accidentally. You may also have to rest for some time until your caregiver sees that you are okay.

Arteriovenous fistula or graft surgery:

Your hemodialysis catheter may only last for a few weeks before it becomes worn out and unusable. If you need more hemodialysis, your caregiver may do surgery to make an arteriovenous fistula (AVF) or arteriovenous graft (AVG). An AVF is made up of an artery and vein connected together. An AVG is a tube that is used to connect your artery and vein. The AVF and AVG are usually done in your arm, but your leg may also be used. The fistula and graft are where your caregiver puts needles during dialysis. Blood will go out from and come back to the AVG or AVF after it is cleaned by the hemodialysis machine. You may have to wait for it to heal before it can be used for hemodialysis. If you need hemodialysis before the AVG or AVF heal, your caregiver may insert another catheter.


  • You may have an allergic reaction to the medicines or dialysate to be used. An allergic reaction may cause your skin to get red and itchy, and you may suddenly have trouble breathing. During hemodialysis you may vomit, have a headache or seizure, or feel very tired. Your blood pressure may drop too low or go too high. You may have chest pain, trouble breathing, and your heart may not beat properly. You may get an infection or have bleeding inside your abdomen. You may have muscle cramps or pain in your arms and legs.
  • If you do not have hemodialysis, your body will continue to hold excess water and unwanted chemicals and wastes. Your body may swell, starting from your feet. You may have heart problems, chest pain, and trouble breathing. You may have seizures, trouble thinking, or go into a coma. These problems can be life-threatening.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Hemodialysis for Acute Renal Failure (Inpatient Care)

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